Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How late is too late… for a Nazi?

The headline reads: “90-year-old man charged over Nazi massacre.” Ok, you have my attention. Here is the article if you’d like to read it in its entirety, but here’s the synopsis. German officials have charged a 90-year-old man in the execution of 57 Jewish slave laborers just weeks before the end of the WWII. Claims are this man was part of the SS stationed in what is now Austria.

So, I got to thinking: How late is too late to pay for a crime? Here in the United States we have statute of limitations on many crimes; these basically restrict the amount of time after a crime is committed in which charges may be filed against the defendant. If time has expired it doesn’t matter if the person is guilty or not, they cannot be imprisoned for the crime. Of course, there are always exclusions, but you get the idea. That said, however, there is no statute of limitation on murder. This seems to be the crux of our social contract, you don’t kill me and I won’t kill you. Everything else comes after that first agreement. If you violate this primary agreement though, you can’t escape justice for a crime of taking another human’s life by hiding it long enough; you must inevitably pay the piper.

Which brings us to this 90-year-old man. The time has come for him to pay the piper, or has it? Just because we can charge someone with a crime doesn’t mean we should. At 90 years old how much time does he have left? What a different person he may have become after all these years. Where is the compassion in us that he was lacking so long ago? Is incarcerating a 90-year-old really going to be justice? Execution, is that the justice those 57 dead deserve? I struggled with this at first, but my unequivocal answer now is no. This man does not deserve prison nor the death penalty. Hear me out… the best way he can serve humanity, to pay his debt to those 57 Jews he executed mercilessly, is to live on and share his firsthand account every day of his life he has remaining.

This man’s sentence should be to help educate the world about the atrocities the Nazi regime committed. He should be a living example for all to hear and see of what hate and extremism lead too. Have his sentence be paid by going from city to city, classroom to classroom, person to person and have him tell of the atrocities committed. Force him to answer the question every day of his life, “Why?” For those Shoah (Holocaust) deniers the world now sees all too many of, this man can be yet another brushstroke in the tapestry of proof we offer, but this time, from one of the very criminals they say didn’t commit crimes. Bloodlust is not a Jewish value, but education is.

Should he refuse? Remind him the piper gets paid, one way or another.

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